This week, the board of the International Association of Culinary Professionals is visiting Portland to plan its forthcoming global conference slated for April 2010. Last night, over a splendid multicourse spread at Clyde Common, the topic of James Beard came up, and not one of our out-of-town guests (among them top food writers, educators, and culinary executives) was aware that Beard, the father of the American gastronomical movement, was born and raised in Portland.
Of course, this ignorance isn’t restricted to out-of-town guests. Few locals are aware of it either, and it’s our own fault. While it’s well documented that Beard’s early inspiration and love for cuisine were derived from the same incredible ingredients that have garnered Portland a reputation as a foodie utopia in recent years, there doesn’t exist the slightest of monuments dedicated to Beard in the city from which he came.
True, there has been a decade-long effort to construct a public market named in Beard’s honor in Portland, but this probably will not happen anytime soon given the project’s dependence on a more robust commercial real estate market. There have been few other attempts to celebrate his legacy.
Our politicians have spent time and political capital attempting to rename streets after labor leader César Chávez, but they haven’t considered the equally monumental influence of a Portland native who continues to inspire generations of chefs and culinary professionals.
As Portland is now among the top destinations for food and wine in the country, it’s time to hail our most famous son. Recognition is long overdue.